By Zach Urness
An effort to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list is moving forward on multiple fronts.
State biologists said Tuesday that wolf numbers are high enough to justify removing them the state list, while Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to prohibit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife commission from listing wolves as threatened or endangered.
With four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon for three consecutive years and 77 known wolves statewide, ODFW biologists said there is little probability of wolves declining or going extinct.
"Factors related to wolf health all indicate a healthy and growing population," ODFW wrote in a report released Tuesday. "Significant information exists to justify initiating rulemaking to remove the gray wolf from the Oregon List of Endangered Species."
The department will present its report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on April 24 in Bend. The commission will decide whether to start the process of delisting wolves.
"If the Commission does go forward (with rulemaking to delist wolves), then it would go to a full public process," ODFW communications coordinator Michelle Dennehy said. "They wouldn't be delisted, if it happened, until later this year."
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are seeking a more direct route to getting wolves off the list. Legislation authored by Rep.Greg Barreto (R-Cove), Rep. Jodi Hack (R-Salem) and Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) seeks to prohibit ODFW from ever including wolves on the list endangered species list.A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Groups including the Oregon Cattlemen's Association have advocated for delisting wolves to make it easier for ranchers to use lethal action to protect livestock. Conversation groups have said that 77 wolves is too small a population to consider them recovered.
Wolves being removed from the state list wouldn't mean a huge change, Dennehy said.
Wolves in western Oregon are still protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. And even with the delisting, wolves in Oregon would still be managed under the state's Oregon Wolf Plan, which emphasizes non-lethal control to manage wolves and only allows lethal control in certain circumstances.
"Even with the delisting, we still have a comprehensive wolf plan and still would have protections in place," Dennehy said. Photos.